A good time to be a planner.

The American Society of Civil Engineers just put out the US's infrastructure report card that they do every four years. Overall, we rated a D, which is down from the D+ we got in 2001. (click on the title above for a link to the site) We were rated on the following subjects: Aviation (D+), Bridges (C), Dams (D), Drinking Water (D-), National Power Grid (D), Hazardous Waste (D), Navigable Waterways (D-), Public Parks and Recreation Areas (C-), Rail (C-), Roads (D), Schools (meaning school infrastructure, not quality of instruction: D), Security (I [imcomplete assesment], Solid Waste (C+), Transit (D+) and Wastewater (D+).

What is especially unfortunate about these statistics is that they can't be traced to any one administration or policy (it would be far easier to fix if they were). The fact is that infrastructure has been declining in the US for a long time now. Here are a few more interesting tidbits: 27.1% of the nations bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete." Think about that next time you need to cross a river. 33% of the dams in the country are unsafe. The poor condition of american roads costs motorist $54 billion per year in repairs and opperating costs. Americans spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, at a cost of $63.2 billion a year to the economy. Transit use increased 21% between 1993 and 2002 (more then any other type of transportation), while federal funds in terms of real dollars declined.

The report also showed a little of each states infrastructure, since most of my readers will be either Minnesotan or Bay Staters, I'll give a bit of those reports as well. In Minnesota, 69% of major roads are conjested and 25% are in poor or mediocre condition. Congestion in the Twin Cities costs each driver an average of $740 per person in excess fuel. 57% of Minnesota schools have at least one inadiquite building feature. The population of Minnesota grew by 16% between 1990 and 2003 but the vehicle trafic on Minnesota roads increased 42%. Minnesota also has 40 "high hazard dams" or dams whose failure would cause a loss of life and property damage. In Massachusetts, only 31% of our roads are congested, but 71% are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Bay Staters $501 per person in repairs. 75% of our schools are deficient and 51% of our bridges are structurally unsound.

I guess that's job security for me. It reminds me of something that novellist James Howard Kunstler wrote after a trip to Berlin about 5 years ago:

"The great postunification project for Berlin has been the enormous task of simply becomeing a normal city again, as indeed the great cultural task for the German people and nation was to become normal again after all the vicissitudes, horrors, and lunacies of the twentieth century. Normality had to be accomplished without any artificial reinforcement of the national sense of self-esteem. If anything, group self-esteem has been viewed by Germans for the past half-century as a deadly vice, something to be avoided at all costs, the doorway to the abyss. The goal of normalization in Germany, and in the once and future capital city, Berlin, has pretty much been attained now, at the threshold of the twenty-first century.

"Here in America, meanwhile, the attendees of all our conferences and symposia on urban problems tell us that injections of self-esteem will lead to the reconstruction of the American cities. And every day Cleaveland, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo, Hartford, Indianapolis, Nashville, Houston, Birmingham, Richmond, Raleigh, Topeka, Des Moines, Scranton, Worcester, Louisville, and other cities of the victorious United States, leader of the Free World, look as if the enemy bombers flew over them yesterday."


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